Google saving over US$1 billion a year with employees working from home

The savings offset many of the costs that came with hiring thousands more workers. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - With Covid-19 restrictions lifting, more people are booking trips and hotels online, which is very good for Google's advertising business. Google's employees, however, are working from home and not travelling as much on the company dime - and that's also good for its business.

During the first quarter, Google parent Alphabet saved US$268 million (S$355 million) in expenses from company promotions, travel and entertainment, compared with the same period a year earlier, "primarily as a result of Covid-19", according to a company filing.

On an annualised basis, that would be more than US$1 billion.

Indeed, Alphabet said in its annual report earlier this year that advertising and promotional expenses dropped by US$1.4 billion in 2020 as the company reduced spending, paused or rescheduled campaigns, and changed some events to digital-only formats due to the pandemic. Travel and entertainment expenses fell by US$371 million.

The savings offset many of the costs that came with hiring thousands more workers. And the pandemic prudence allowed the company to keep its marketing and administrative costs effectively flat for the first quarter, despite boosting revenue by 34 per cent.

Google is known for perks such as massage tables, catered cuisine and corporate retreats, which have influenced much of Silicon Valley's work culture. Most Google staff have worked remotely and without those perks since March last year.

However, Google plans to return to the office later this year. Chief financial officer Ruth Porat told investors the company is planning a "hybrid" model, spacing staff less densely than before. Ms Porat also said Google will continue to invest in its real estate across the globe.

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